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Vision 2025

Vision 2025 rears it's ugly head! Please see President Skwierczynski's emails to Acting Commissioner Colvin

Acting Commissioner Colvin:

The office of Chief Strategic Officer (OCSO) has been making regional visits ostensibly to obtain input from employees regarding the implementation of the Vision 2025 plan. 

I received a recent report from Pam Baca, AFGE Council 220 3rd Vice President and President AFGE Local 1802, regarding a visit to Denver on August 3-4, 2016.  Her report is very disturbing to me.

Three individuals made a presentation.  Darryl Taylor was the primary spokesperson for OCSO.  He was accompanied by Steven Knight Jr. and Shawn Millin.  Mr. Taylor spent virtually the entire time of his visit to the Lakewood, CO field office on August 3 lecturing the employees (i.e., 2 1/2 hrs.).  At the conclusion of the presentation he solicited feedback for only 5 to10 minutes.  Ms. Baca's impression was that Mr. Taylor was solely focused on making his power point presentation without interruption. 

Part of Mr. Taylor's presentation before Lakewood bargaining unit employees was to criticize me personally for my views regarding Vision 2025.  In addition, Mr. Taylor continually criticized the state of field offices.  He said that customers who visit field offices are at a disadvantage because they start from scratch and have to talk to employee to explain what they need.  He stated that visiting a field office is frustrating because customers are asked intrusive questions about "every life event" that other agencies should already know.    He commented that field offices are awful places to visit since they have no parking and the public had to put up with long waits.  He said that it was terrible that the public was forced to go through metal detectors and that they had to submit to bag checks.

He stated that field offices were not compassionate when disability claimants had to wait for hours behind those who had "trivial" needs such as TPQIs and "the little blue card".  He stated that field offices are inconvenient and people had to wait too long to obtain services.

Mr. Taylor also asserted that people did not want to go to field offices because they were terrible places to go to.  He asserted that the public preferred to go to WalMart (a non-union commercial establishment that refuses to pay employees living wages) to do their SSA business while they were buying non-union bread and non-union milk.  His conclusion was based on the banking services offered by WalMart (those banking services by law are severely limited). 

He then characterized SSA employees as unwilling to work in SSA field offices because they were terrible places to work, had long lines, far out  calendars, full lobbies, insufficient staff and insufficient resources.

He went on to say that employees want to work at home in their pajamas rather than servicing the public in field offices.  Pajama wearing employees communicating via VSD, Skype, IMs and other video service would be really helping the public far more than employees working in field offices. 

OCSO is part of your office.  When OSCO representatives speak to bargaining unit employees they represent you.  Darryl Taylor was presumably informing employees of your attitudes toward them.  His presentation came directly from the NAPA playbook right down to the pajama clad employees.

Since I know you personally, I know that you do not share these demeaning views towards field office employees and their union.  Millions of SSA customers flood field offices because they want to interact face to face with experts who can guide them through the complex, difficult to understand Social Security claims process.  Why is your office denigrating those millions of customers and casting aspersions on the field office structure?  Such behavior from your staff is unacceptable. 

I have tough skin and can accept Mr.Taylor's criticism.  However, his words are gutless when uttered when I am not present to defend myself. 

His understanding of the state of field offices, the organization of work and the reasons for crowded conditions and long waits is abysmal and poorly reflects on you.  There is no evidence that the public is disadvantaged when they choose to obtain face to face Social Security service in a field office.  Quite the contrary, AFGE has conducted 3 surveys of employees who review internet claims that would indicate that internet claims filers are much more likely to select disadvantageous months of election and file for benefits that will likely result in less lifetime revenue than if they received advice from an SSA employee in an SSA office.  Also, there is no evidence that SSA employees who work in field offices would rather work in their pajamas.  SSA has conducted no scientific polling of either the employees or the public on any subject.  Therefore, any assertions that SSA officials know what the employees or public want are completely false.  If Mr. Taylor wants to know what employees think, maybe he should ask their elected representatives.   The only scientific  poll that I know of, commissioned by Social Security Works, found that only 12% of the voting age public would select the internet as the methodology for doing their business.  The remaining 88% would pick either the telephone or a face to face visit to an SSA office to do their business.  According to this poll even smaller percentages of so-call millennials would select the internet as their vehicle for filing a claim.

Mr. Taylor's views on how field offices are organized shows that OSCO is ignorant regarding the day to day operations of a field office.  People who file claims are interviewed by Claims Representatives while those who want  "a little blue card" are interviewed by Service Representatives in most offices.  These are separate "lines" and have separate waiting times.

Mr. Taylor's belief that the public equates buying a loaf of bread to filing for retirement benefits is absurd.  Again, there is no evidence that the public would rather select filing their SSA claims in grocery stores rather than in SSA offices.  In fact, where SSA has closed offices and substituted video terminals as a vehicle for service, few people use them.

The reason that field offices are crowded, waiting times are long and face to face service is sometimes hard to obtain is because Congress has grossly underfunded the administrative budget for SSA.  The response to that is not to reduce face to face service but rather, to demand that Congress properly fund SSA's administrative budget.

I strongly urge that you rethink this regional lecture program that appears designed to promote a flawed belief that all customers should be steered to internet services so they can fend for themselves and deal with PI dangers.  A key principle of Vision 2025 is to insure that the public has a choice of the manner in which they do business with SSA.  Your staff is preaching that it is a mistake for the public to choose to have their service done in a field office because they are crowded, unsafe, intrusive and inconvenient. This attitude indicates that this pledge is a sham.

If you really want to know what the public and employees thing do some polling.  The traveling Vision 2025 show appears to be a propaganda effort to try to convince employees that the field office structure is an anachronism and that the future is in the internet.  That may be what the Office of the Commissioner wants but that vision is one where the public loses.  They lose the expertise of SSA employees in helping navigate their choices.  They also lose because in the internet world they are left to fend for themselves in a complex program.  Government should not treat taxpayers this way.

Stop these OCSO visits.  You are not convincing the employees that getting rid of field offices is the right thing to do.  Demanding sufficient appropriations so that we can continue to provide and expand community based face to face service is the right thing to do.  That's what the union is trying to do.  Your Strategic Planning Office should get on board and develop strategies for expanding the community based services that we provide not eliminating them.

Witold Skwierczynski

President

AFGE Council 220

______________________________________________________________________________________________

On September 2, 2016 President Skwierczynski requested a response!

Carolyn:
I'm disappointed that I have received no reply from you to my correspondence to you regarding the inappropriate behavior of members of your staff in pushing Vision 2025.  Now I am even more disappointed than I was when I wrote you.  This behavior by the Office of Strategic Planning leads me to conclude that the NAPA report for Vision 2025 is alive and constitutes SSA policy.  The code language and disparagement of field office employees is identical.  We will be forced to notify SSA employees that our fears about the dismantlement of field offices were accurate.  Your representatives are telling employees that nobody will want to deal with them in 2025.  Instead they will wear pajamas and use the internet. 
Please respond to this.
Witold Skwierczynski
Co-Chair
AFGE-SSA Forums



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